As you begin or continue your retirement journey, a little bit of self discovery is the best place to start. Retirement is a key milestone in anyone’s life and, although, we think we can handle anything that comes our way, most experts think it’s worth the effort to stop for just a bit and collect our thoughts.
In this process of self discovery, in the silence of our minds and hearts, we should take the time to understand what we are feeling and what it means. There are no right or wrong answers here and the only requirement is to be completely truthful with ourselves. That’s more difficult than it sounds. It’s easy to put on a brave face and say “I got this” and go forward without a plan on how you’re going approach this new phase of your life. Many people find it helpful to write things down as you go through each day and a Retirement Journal, if you want to call it that, is a very good idea as you keep track of all the thoughts and feelings that occur to you as experience this new stage in your life.
It’s also a good time to more fully understand the truly unique person that you are – and I mean that sincerely. There is no one else like you in the world and, too often, people acknowledge that in passing and then keep going at full speed. That’s a shame because this is one of the great learning opportunities of your life and, dare I say, maybe your last chance to get it right!
Have you ever read a really good novel and marveled at how the writer held you in the palm of his hands until you completed the book? How he or she painted each detail of a scene and every nuance of a character’s action with such care? Have you ever thought about whether or not you know yourself as well as that writer did? After all, they were able to hold your interest and turn page after page as if your very existence depended on knowing what happened in the story.
There are hidden details about you that you’ve forgotten about or never knew in the first place! It’s time to get to know yourself a little bit bitter and understand what really makes you tick! In the self discovery process, you'll ask yourself what makes you happy? What makes you sad? What gets you angry and what gets you so excited you forget everything else that is happening?
One of the nicest things that happened to me as I was approaching retirement was the reaction of the people I worked with. I was deeply touched by their recollections of our time together and their expressions of caring when they told me they would miss me. They gave me a perspective about myself that I was not able to see on my own. One of the common threads was how they felt that I cared about them as a person and was interested in what they were thinking. As a manager, I’m happy to say that I took extra time to help each person I was privileged to supervise spend some time to plan out their career and leveraging their strengths and interests. As I came down to my final weeks at work, I realized that I needed to do exactly that with the change of life I was about to experience.
What occurred to me was that my life would be very different after I stopped working. I had the rest of my life to think about and a big chunk of my day being eliminated from my daily routine. After all, between my time to commute to work plus the day spent at the office, I had easily ten and sometimes twelve or more hours to fill where there were no meetings to attend, no presentations to give and no conference calls to participate in. What was I going to do? How was I going to spend my time?
This is a point for true confessions and one of the findings of my own self discovery process. The truth is that I didn’t really like my job that much. Quite honesty, I never knew what I was going to do in terms of a career and, for the most part, settled into the job that I had through trial and error. Most of my co-workers would say that I was good at what I did and the fact that I lasted with a company for almost forty years is probably evidence that the people who supervised me thought so as well.
The fact is, however, I was not my job, and neither are you. The self discovery process will help reveal an inner self that you may not have been aware of. I came to realize that I am a person with more interests than I can count and an almost endless desire to learn about a lot of different things. The strange thing is that I had always hated school and I think hate is not too strong a word. I had wonderful teachers (mostly) but I hated being there. Hated. Hated. Hated! But I loved to learn new things – on my own.
I relate all this so that you know a little bit about me but we all arrive at this stage in our lives – retirement- from a different place and we need to take a little time to discover what makes each of us unique so that we can design the rest of our life. I have found retirement to be the absolute best thing that ever happened to me (except for my wife and family!) and I became determined to help everyone to create the best retirement possible. But, for the best results, I suggest you start with a little bit of self discovery.